Just a day after Parliament said Malaysia would strive to promote good relations with the United States, the Government rebuffed Washington over efforts to isolate Iran and Libya. The acting undersecretary of the American Division of the Malaysian Foreign Ministry, Arshad Manzoor Hussain, said yesterday Malaysian companies would continue to invest abroad wherever economic opportunities existed, including Iran and Libya. He said he gave this message to the US deputy assistant secretary of state for energy, sanctions and commodities, William Ramsay, at a meeting on an Iranian gas deal involving Petronas, Malaysia's national oil company, France's Total and Russia's Gazprom. The US had said it would investigate the companies involved in the deal under the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act, which provides for sanctions against companies investing more than US$20 million (HK$154 million) in either Iran or Libya. After Malaysia had said it would not co-operate in any investigation of Petronas, the US said Mr Ramsay would merely be exchanging views with the Malaysian Foreign Ministry on the American sanctions act. Mr Ramsay said his mission was to 'explain the background' of the act. Mr Arshad said Malaysia did not accept the United States' 'extraterritorial application' of its law. The issue was addressed during Wednesday's vote of confidence in Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. The confidence motion expressed opposition to the US decision to investigate the Petronas investment. It also opposed a move by 34 American congressmen to have the US House of Representatives adopt a resolution demanding that Dr Mahathir apologise or resign over an alleged 'anti-Semitic' statement. The congressmen's move was prompted by remarks attributed to Dr Mahathir in Malaysian newspapers, contending that a Jewish conspiracy was behind the regional financial turmoil. The Prime Minister later denied making such comments. Malaysia's Deputy Prime Minister, Anwar Ibrahim, rejected the congressmen's charge that Dr Mahathir was anti-Jewish. Referring to William Shakespeare's unsympathetic portrayal of the Jewish merchant Shylock, he asked whether this made the playwright anti-Jewish. 'The decision depends on whether one reads Shakespeare's work in totality,' he said, arguing that a controversial statement by the Prime Minister should not be interpreted 'in bits and pieces'. He also said US-Malaysia relations were excellent, but Mr Arshad's statement would not be welcome in Washington.